[Looking for Charlie's main web site?]

Got my Adobe Community Expert (ACE) designation today...thanks, Adobe!

I was delighted to learn today that I have been designated an Adobe Community Expert (ACE). Many know the program as the segue from Team Macromedia, and my readers may remember that I was a member of that program until April 2003 when I...uh...took a sabattical. :-)

Anyway, I'm back in the program and very honored. (It may take a few days to get the listing on the site.) I look forward to continuing to contribute to the CFML and broader Adobe community.

Need to manage an IIS 6 server from XP? Get MS snap-in "IIS 6 Manager for XP"

If you need to access an IIS 6 server from XP and try "actoin>connect" to point to one, you'll get an error, "Remote administration of IIS 6.0 from IIS 5.1 is not supported. Please upgrade to IIS 6.0 Administration Pack". Yet if you head to the MS site you may have trouble finding a tool of that name.

If you look carefully though, a search for that there or on the web will find you "Internet Information Services (IIS) 6.0 Manager for Windows XP", and that's indeed what you want.

After installing, note that it still doesn't make it possible to access IIS 6.1 servers from IIS 5's manager. Instead, it creates a new separate instance of IIS Manager 6 in your Administrative Tools alongside your IIS 5 manager. (The download page warns that it will not appear in "Computer Manager" if you also have the IIS 5.1 manager, but I saw both there and they worked fine.)

Note as well that the IIS 6 manager has no trouble accessing IIS 5 servers, so you may well just choose to use the new manager in place of the old for all your IIS management needs. Of course, it won't let you do anything on your 5.1 IIS that you couldn't do before: still no support for multiple web sites, for instance. (Though see a blog entry I did in the past on ways to get around that.)

Interesting discovery from WebApper on CFSWITCH when used with strings, under load

The folks at WebApper have shared news of an interesting discovery regarding a performance problem they've observed when using CFSWITCH and a string value for EXPRESSION, especially in a loop under load. It seems interesting enough to make sure others notice it. Check it out.

Really slick multi-file upload tool

Some time back I was exchanging thoughts with some folks about the hassles of multiple file uploads in web pages. Of course, the good ol'
<input type="file">
tag can only load one at a time. It also offers no progress bars, nor much other feedback. Well the folks I was speaking (at Digital Crew) with just went and built a custom tag, CF_ProFlashUpload, to solve the problem.

Now, the bad news for some is that it's not free, but $50. Still, it seems very much worth the price if you really need what it solves.

Check out info, demos, an eval download, and more at http://www.cftagstore.com/tags/flashmultipleupload.cfm. Besides a flash progress bar, it also offers options for handling callbacks and much more.

For those who really want a free tool, I just saw today that Dave Shuck pointed to one as well:

http://www.daveshuck.com/index.cfm?commentID=112

Update: In case you come along and find this entry after it was written in July 2006, note that I now have a long list of alternative file upload tools, in a category of my CF411 list, File Upload Tools . Please check there for other alternatives in this and 125+ other categories.

Need to migrate an Access DB into SQL Server? Here's a solution you may have missed?

If you have need to migrate an Access DB to SQL Server 2005, Microsoft has a free tool to help, which it seems many may miss.

Check out: http://www.microsoft.com/sql/solutions/migration/default.mspx#EYC

Thanks to Teddy Payne for pointing it out in his blog entry, which also offers an additional document he's put together on the migration steps.

Great new resource: a weekly summary of the CF blogosphere

Hey folks, here's something to add if you wish to keep up on the news of the week in the CF blogspace. Andy Allan of the Scottish CFUG (www.scottishcfug.com) has started to keep a running weekly summary of what he observes to be the top news stories of the week among the various CF blogs.

Because he's using Ray's awesome BlogCFC tool and is marking the entries in a category (blog-round-up), you can easily keep an eye on all future posts.

Here's the RSS feed URL for just the blog-round-up category:

http://www.creative-restraint.co.uk/blog/rss.cfm?mode=full&mode2=cat&catid=93661280-C6C5-1A2A-16D86B1A3ADA948E

And here's the URL to view just the blog-round-up category in a browser:

http://www.creative-restraint.co.uk/blog/index.cfm/Blog-Round-Up

Finally, here is this week, his first post:

http://www.creative-restraint.co.uk/blog/index.cfm/2006/7/22/Blog-Round-Up

Awesome stuff, Andy! Thanks so much, on behalf of the entire CFML community.

Of course, let's recognize that this is really a substantial undertaking for him. There could be times when he misses publishing it, or perhaps misses some entry you feel is vital. I'm sure he'll welcome comments there, but let's also cut him some slack.

If it becomes a more vital resource that proves too much for him to handle alone, perhaps it could become a community contributed resource. Maybe there's even some alternative approach where desirable blog entries are marked and rated by the community (without being lost in world-volume services like Digg, Technorati, Delicious, etc.) I don't use them to know, but perhaps others can comment (here or at Andy's entry).

But for now, let's just all sit back, relax, and gratefully enjoy Andy's editorial efforts. Thanks, dude!

PS If you don't use an RSS reader, note that you can also subscribe to his entire blog (you'll get an email of all new posts) using the subscribe form on the page. Or, you can use a cool tool like Squeet to have IT watch the RSS feed and send you emails for new posts in that feed. I've blogged about that elsewhere:

http://www.tipicalcharlie.com/blog_email_notification_by_squeet.htm (Update: tipicalcharlie domain is no more, but page recovered using Archive.org.)

(Update: Sadly, squeet (a tool to send RSS feeds by email) is no more. But there are other alternatives, that I track in a category of my CF411 site: http://www.cf411.com/rss_email.)

Congrats to the top 3 speakers at CFUnited...my streak is over ;-)

Congratulations to the top 3 speakers at CFUnited this year: Josh Adams, Dave Ross, and Jeff Tapper. Each had the highest average rating (out of a total of 20 points) per attendee for one of their sessions. Josh had a stellar 19.827.

With 80 total sessions being scored (ratings were per session, even if a repeat), it's quite an honor to come out on top. Indeed, I had been one of the top speakers the past 2 years, so my streak is over but I heartily congratulate the new winners.

I'll note that only .03 points separated the next 7 speakers, so it was a tight race. Those who scored 19 or over were, from 4th place on: Sean Corfield, Ron West, Joey Coleman, Maxim Porges, Shlomy Gantz, Ray Camden, myself, Sandy Clark, and Ray Camden again. (Remeber, it was per session, not per speaker, nor even per all sessions by a speaker. Of course, it was also only based on those who filled in surveys.)

Sean and I can take some consolation in having rated the top two number of surveys turned in, both over 90 at 93 and 92, respectively. But I know that many other speakers had very crowded rooms and hear lots of raves about them, so the lesson here is "turn in those surveys".

See you next year! :-)

I-Spry Part 7: You can now run the Adobe Spry samples live on the labs site

Here's some good news: you can now run the Spry samples directly from the labs web site. Sure, the "demos" (versus "samples") have always been available there, but when 1.2 was released I pointed out in my entry on it that sadly you couldn't run the "samples" there.

(As suggested in the entry's title, this is part of a series I'm doing on Spry. Be sure to check out the other entries.)

Instead, you had to download the product to run them, which seemed a shame. As easy as it might be, I could see some people wanting to be able to point demos out to others, for instance, without expecting them to download it. I'm happy to report that this has now been fixed.

Check 'em all out.

I-Spry Part 6: Don't Miss the Spry RSS Reader demo--it's "for real"!

Have you by any chance tried the RSS Reader demo app in the Spry download, and kind of yawned because it seems to be static and not "real"?

The problem is that in the download, the Readme.html points to the file demos/rssreader/index.html. Sadly, that one just reads a static XML file that simulates an RSS feed (showing "lorem ipsum" or "greeked" text).

But if you've run the demo on the labs.adobe.com site, you will have seen a "real" RSS feed. What gives?

(As suggested in the entry's title, this is part of a series I'm doing on Spry. Be sure to check out the other entries.)

Gotcha 1: There are really 3 demo files to choose from

Here's the situation: in that demos/rssreader/ directory, there are actually 3 different files available to be run: index.html, index-cfm.html, and index-php.html. The latter two will get real, live RSS feeds. But again, the readme.html doesn't point to them, so you may miss them.

OK, so now you know they're there. Do check them out. As I'll explain in a moment, they hold a key to one problem CFML folks often want to solve when working with Spry. Here are a couple other gotchas.

Gotcha 2: You need to run them on intended servers

If you do run them, note that you have to put them on the respective kinds of servers (index-cfm.html on a CFML server, or index-php.html on a PHP server).

Under the covers, the pages make a request to the named RSS feed by way of CFML or PHP code running on your server, and then send the resulting XML down to the client.

How they get around Javascript/browser security restrictions for requesting XML from other servers

This approach is indeed the way that you get around the Javascript/browser security limitation that would otherwise preclude the client making an httprequest to a server other than the one that sent the HTML page. (In the CFML version, it ultimately calls on a CFM page that does a CFHTTP on the client's behalf.)

If you're wanting to grab some XML from a server other than the one serving your Spry HTML page, and you've found that it doesn't work, this is the challenge and indeed the solution you need. See the demo source for more. Here is another example.

Gotcha 3: You can't request them via the file system

One other gotcha in running the CFM and PHP versions of the HTML pages: you have to request them via a web server. In other words, you can't just open them via the file system (as you can with most Spry demos), but must load them via a URL like http://yourhost/.... Why is that? Because the index-cfm.html page makes its request for that CFM page as (for example):

var dsCategories = new Spry.Data.XMLDataSet("data/feeds.cfm", "feeds/feed/category", { distinctOnLoad: true, sortOnLoad: "category" });

That then causes the browser to try to request the data/feeds.cfm file in the same manner in which the enclosing index-cfm.html was requested. And we all know you can't request a CFM page using the file system!

Gotcha 4: The Labs page demo runs index.html, but it's really the index-php.html

Adding to the confusion in all this, if you run the demo on the adobe labs site, clicking on the link in the RSSreader demo link in the readme.html there, it works "as expected" (real RSS feeds) even though it's pointing at demos/rssreader/index.html. Why does it work there, you may wonder?

Well, if you do a view source of that page there, you see that it's doing the PHP approach. What they've really done is renamed the PHP version to index.html, so that a "real" example shows when people run it there. I can see why they did, but I can also see it confusing some trying to connect all these dots. (Let's not give them grief for not running the CFM version!)

Gotcha 5: Some feeds fail when run from downloaded code, but working on the labs site

One last comment, and it's really separate from the main points above. When I run the page that serves the "real" feed, on my localhost, I notice that several of them fail (they get the error, "failed to load feed items", using the new spry:state tag).

But the version on the adobe live site works fine. I don't know if the difference is their running the PHP version, and my running the CFML one. Or perhaps they've updated what's running there?

When I analyze the HTTP streams coming in on the "failed" feeds, they are indeed receiving expected RSS XML.

Anyway, I leave that for your consideration.

Just don't miss these demos!

Anyway, the main point is that they're just not listed in the readme, so I fear most will miss them. I did, for some time. Hope this helps.

MS Virtual PC (and Virtual Server) Now Free

Many may know that MS had released Virtual Server for free, but this week they also released Virtual PC (VPC) for free. Wow. For those who don't know about virtualization, let me share a little more, including other alternatives.

First, for more on the release of VPC as free, see:

http://blogs.msdn.com/virtual_pc_guy/archive/2006/07/12/662535.aspx

About Virtualization

With virtualization you can run one "guest" OS (or Virtual Machine/VM) inside another "host" (your regular machine). That could be Linux inside Windows, or vice-versa. Or you could run Windows 2000 inside XP, etc.

Or you may choose simply to run multiple instances of a given OS on one box, perhaps using one guest to isolate changes to protect your main host. It's such a powerful solution for testing, development, and more.

Licensing the OS within the VM

To be clear: you still need to have licenses for whatever OS's you want to run in the VM/guest. VPC and other tools don't "come with a license" for any OS. You need to install one in your guest and you must own it.

I will note, however, that MS has revamped its licensing to recognize the use of OS's you DO own on virtual machines. I'll leave you to sort through the details to determine how it fits your situation:

http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/highlights/virtualization.mspx

Learning More about VM Products

Finally, to get VPC, visit:

http://www.microsoft.com/virtualpc

And for the server edition, see:

http://www.microsoft.com/virtualserver

FWIW, its major competitor (on Windows systems), VMWare, had also long ago released their server edition for free:

http://www.vmware.com/products/server/

The also released a free "virtual player". For more, see:

http://www.vmware.com/products/free_virtualization.html

For mac users, you probably already know that Parallels Desktop, while not free, is only $50.

Let the virtual reality begin. :-)

I-Spry Part 5: Spry 1.2 released. Here's my take on what's new

Spry 1.2 has been released. I've done some digging and want to share some other observations beyond what's in the change log.

(As suggested in the entry's title, this is part of a series I'm doing on Spry. Be sure to check out the other entries.)

First, as always with Spry, you'll want to view the Readme.html, ChangeLog.html, and view the demos ande samples offered on the site. You'll want to also download the zip and run it on your own (in my first posting of this entry, I noted that you couldn't run the "samples" on the adobe site, but that has since been fixed)).

If you're still really new to Spry, I'll recommend you go check out my Spry Compendium, as I identify which of the many docs and other resources are the best ones to focus on to get you started. This entry is directed more to those with experience using Spry (whether you read it today or later after digging into it a little).

New Features

So naturally, what intrigues people most is "what's new". There are several things. Here are the ones I thought are most interesting, in order of my sense of their importance (which may not be the same as anyone else's):

  • There is now a very helpful debug feature, which allows developers to see the geneated HTML code for a given Spry dynamic region. I was going to write a blog post today (mentioned it yesterday) to discuss tools that can help with this problem, but now it's just gotten easier with this feature. I'll still write about it later, as it may help users of other Ajax libraries, and there are other facets I was going to discuss that you still need to know. Anyway, you enable this debugging very easily, by setting Spry.Data.Region.debug = true; in Javascript on the page. See more, including live examples, in the resources pointed to below.
  • There's a new "widget model" (yoohoo!), which creates a framework for how Adobe will add various widgets in the future. While several are mentioned in the documentation (more on docs below), there is only one new one for now, the accordion. An accordion existed in 1.1, and it's now formally supported, and found in a new widgets directory, so clearly we'll see more in the future. Note that the accordion also supports use of the keyboard up/down arrow to select panel to expand a selected panel, while collapsing the previous one, as shown better in the examples (again, see more and live examples below)
  • There's a new spry:state tag to enable offering users messages (or taking other actions) during the various loading states that an httprequest goes through while getting your XML data. See the "Spry Dataset and Dynamic Region Overview" document as well as the RSSreader and "Region States" samples (below) for demos. With the RSSReader, you'll notice (since it collects live data and has a delay) that you get a little message, "loading feed items" while it's fetching. Cool.
    • Here's a bonus tip, not new in 1.2, but if you've never noticed that the RSS Reader demo has more than just the static version that reads from the "lorem ipsum" XML files also in the zip, do instead run the index-cfm.html version that's there. Then you get a live versoin, like you see on the spry site's demo link. I'll share more on that later.
  • There is a new mechanism to help do good old alternating row processing, using the new ds_EvenOddRow data reference (examples below)
    • Another comment: I hoped to point you to a live example on the Adobe site, but for some reason I don't find the /samples code there anywhere. Perhaps there's some concern. Anyway, it's in the download, and there are indeed several other live demos on the site, just not the ones in that one /samples directory, that I can find at least.
  • 1.2 also solved a previous incompatibility with apps you may have written using the Prototype library, as Spry was written on a specific build that may have conflicted with what you use. They now clarify that they're running with Prototype 1.5 rc0 and so should be compatible with apps running that build, also
  • There is an interesting feature that may appeal to some, called "auto-stripping of the SpryHiddenRegion". See the sample, "Hiding Data References ", below.
  • -Of course, there are various other issues and bug fixes

Same Small Package

Happily, the two Adobe Spry javascript files still total less than 100k, and further, from my testing, if you want to update your implementation of Spry (such as for bug fixes) and don't want to take advantage of new features, all you need is the three.js files found in the /includes directory, SpryData.js, SpryXML.js, and xpath.js. Of course, if you want the widgets (accordion) or other new things (or examples, etc.) then you need the rest of the files.

New Documentation

From what I can tell, there are just two new docs, related to the widgets/accordion:

Updated Documentation

While all the docs get various minor updates, the Spry Data Set and Dynamic Region Overview document is most important to review, with its discussions of the new "region states" and "hiding data references" features, as well as updated discussion of observer notifications.

New Examples

As I mentioned above, there are several examples demonstrating the new features, and even some that just show new techniques that are not specific to Spry 1.2. Since the original post of this note (and 1.2), you can now run the samples live on the labs site:

  • Hiding Data References - This is an example of how to hide the data references used inside of spry:region and spry:detailregions as the page loads
  • Combining Spry Attributes - This sample shows you how you can combine some of the processing instruction attributes to eliminate the need for using extra wrapper elements
  • Debugging Generated Region Markup - This sample shows you how to turn on region debugging to see what template code is being processed and what markup is being generated
    • Actually, this is really the same example as the previous one, but it shows off both features
  • Regions States Sample - This sample shows you how to use region states to specify when markup in dynamic regions should be shown
  • Data Set Observer - This sample shows you the two ways you can register observers on a data set
  • Even/Odd Row Sample - This sample shows you how to use the built-in {ds_EvenOddRow} data reference to color even and odd rows of a table
  • Auto Suggest Sample - An example of using a Spry region and non-destructive filter to create an auto suggest widget
  • Zuggest Sample - Very similar to the Auto Suggest Sample above, but the content is styled so that it appears as a set of results like Zuggest
  • Accordion Sample - An example of how to style accordions differently on the same page
    • Note that it shows several different styles

In particular, notice the new suggest examples, which use a new samples/includes/SpryAutoSuggest.js.

I hope all that helps others exploring the new release.

I-Spry Part 4: Help. Spry/Ajax isn't working: problems due to unexpected server results

As you begin exploring Spry, or indeed any Ajax solution, there's going to be a point when you'll be stumped with something just not working, and no amount of eyeballing the CFML or HTML source will help...because the problem is between the browser and the server--in the http stream. In this entry, I want to share some common problems and solutions. In the next entry, I'll discuss tools to help solve that problem. This is vital stuff.

(As suggested in the entry's title, this is part of a series I'm doing on Spry. Be sure to check out the other entries.)

Problems Due to CFML Debugging Being Turned On

While most Spry examples show simply opening XML files, most CFML folks will be inclined to try to generate the XML via CFML. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, I'll have a future entry on some tips there.

But if you do decide to try to generate the XML from CFML, you need to be very careful: Spry apps (and indeed many Ajax apps) expect XML--and only XML--to be received in response to their httprequest. A very common problem/mistake is to leave your CFML debugging turned on. You may even look at your page and say "it IS returning XML", but it's not. It's the XML PLUS the debugging output. And what's that written in? HTML!

Solution

The simple solution is either to turn off debugging in the requested CFML page or its application.cfm/cfc, using:

<CFSETTING ShowDebugOutput="no">
or turning it off server-wide in the CF/BD server Admin console.

Problems Due to text/HTML mimetype Being Returned

Another common stumper, depending on how you try to return your XML from CFML, is that while you're trying to send XML, the CFML engine is doing something that you never perhaps noticed. What have we always genereated (for the most part) from CFML pages? Why, HTML, of course.

Well, under the covers, web servers (and app servers like CF/BD) happen to also set what's called the "mime type" for the generated page, and by default they create it to be "text/html". The problem is that a client (like Spry/Ajax) that's expecting XML may balk at that header/mime type.

Solution

The solution may be to set the correct mime type in the requested template or its application.cfm/cfc. You can do that with:

<cfcontent type="text/xml">
. You may even find that it's useful to add the RESET="yes" attribute to that tag, which aborts any previous output generated prior to the tag. I'll share as well that sometimes CFSILENT and CFPROCESSINGDIRECTIVE can be helpful to manage whitespace.

I said above that the problem may depend "on how you try to return your XML from CFML", and that the CFCONTENT "may be" the solution. The thing is that you may also find you can return your XML from CFML in ways that automatically handle that detail, such as using CFFunction's ReturnType="xml", which has changed as of 7.02. More on that later (or in the meantime see other entries in my Spry compendium).

Problems Due to Errors in CFML Page Sending XML

Continuing from the above, think also of what happens if you're requesting a CFML page (that's supposed to be returning XML) and instead there's an error in the page. What does CF (and BD) return? By default, it's the traditional runtime error page. Well, think about it: what's that written in? It's HTML, again! We never think about it in normal CFML coding, because we just see the error in the browser and read the words and go a-debuggin'.

But the code reading the result of the XMLHttpRequest in Spry (and in many Ajax solutions) is not as smart as us. If it's expecting XML, and your error causes it to get HTML, it will be totally stumped.

Solution

The reasonable solution would seem to be to setup your server/application to use CFML error handling (CFERROR, CFTRY/CFCATCH) so that you catch the error and send back a message in XML. But that's not as obvious as it may seem. First, your Spry client is going to be witten so that the Spry.Data.XMLDataSet expects not just ANY XML but XML in a specific nested structure of specific element names. It will not be trivial to package up an error in a format useful to the client.

This is an area where the Spry framework itself could help us. Since the focus for now is on developers of simple static HTML, and indeed on reading simple static XML, it's something that I don't expect would be a high priority for the Spry team. I haven't investigated this with them, though, and will welcome any correction of miunderstanding/misstatement.

The problem of generating "spry-client-specific XML" is still more challenging if you try to setup this error handling in your application.cfm/cfc using CFERROR, but you have pages that are both general-purpose CFML templates browsed by browsers, and those meant to serve up XML. You may want to separate the XML files into their own directory, so as to handle them (and the debugging issue above), separately from the traditional CFML pages. Otherwise, you would need to detect whether the client is not a regular browser, but think about it, how will you know if the client is "not a regular browser"?

All these issues above are not really a new problem. We faced the same challenges some years ago in the "old" days of generating WAP/WML pages from CFML (WML was a way of creating web pages for phones, using an XML-compliant language to layout content for phones). I wrote of many of these same issues in a chapter I did in the book, Professional WAP in 2000.

I should add, as well, that the subject of CFML error handling (CFERROR, CFTRY/CFCATCH, and more) is a topic worthy of multiple blog entries. Instead, I'll point you to a series of CFDJ articles I did on the topic:

Problems due to web server error messages

Similar to the issues of CFML error messages above, think also of the implication of general web server messages. Even if your Spry request asks for a static file (really, any file) from the server which, due to some error (like not existing) would would lead the web server to respond with an error. It's likely that, again, the web server will respond with an error message also formatted in HTML.

Solution

There are different solutions for web server error message handling, but it's beyond the scope of this discussion. I'll just raise the issue for you to consider. I can even foresee web servers perhaps getting smart about detecting the browser type and trying to return a particular type of error, but as was discussed above, this may always be problematic.

A Better Debugging Tool

With all the problems above, and still more, which can cause the server to respond with something that your Spry/Ajax client didn't expect, the better idea is for you to be armed with a tool to help you observe the communicaitons stream between your browser and the server. That's a very important point, which I will save for a later post.

Getting into Subversion as a CFML developer: Another Resource List

There's been a lot of buzz lately about Subversion (SVN), from articles to blogs to podcasts. Here are pointers to a about a dozen such key resources written from the CFML community perspective, for those interested in checking it out. A colleague expressed interest in it and I started gathering these for him, so I figured I'd share it with everyone.

I'm not sure I want to create a "compendium" like I did for Spry, with the care and feeding I've given that so far. Clearly, this entry's links could grow dated over time, or could use new additions. Please add updates in the comments below. Let me know if you find this helpful.

Article

First, I'll note that there was a CFDJ article in April, "Version Control Using Subversion in ColdFusion".

Podcast

Also, Matt and Pete did a a whole episode of the ColdFusion Weekly Podcast on version control, and included considerable (and glowing) discussion of Subversion. Go to the archive page and find show 1.6beta from May 1, 2006.

Presentations

Pete also has done a presentation on the topic for a few user groups, and at least one recording of it is available from his presentation to the online CF user group.

Cameron Childress has done a presentation on it, and shared it and some other thoughts in a couple of blog entries.

Shlomy Gantz did one at CFUnited as well, and is offering it on his blog.

Blog Entries

Pete Frietag has done several SVN blog entries, indeed so many that he has a subversion category to help easily find them all...

...as has Rob Gonda. Thanks to both of you.

Ray Camden did a couple of blog entries as well, and there are various some very useful comments from the community in those, including discussions of Eclipse and Trak integration. The latter entry also has some nice info in a comment on 6/26/06 from Adam Cameron.

And Joe Rinehart did an entry that explains his use of it with regard to MG, with some tips and a related Ant script.

Finally, Nick Tong also has put together a similar list of links he'd found.

I could go on, but that should be enough to get you started in what the CFML community thinks about it. Note as well that several open source CFML projects use SVN.

General Interest Windows Installation tips

Many of the above also point to the popular, "Mere-Moments Guide to installing a Subversion server on Windows", which was written to help make it easier to understand and install all the parts for Windows users.

Some good news is that, as useful as that is for understanding things, it was supplanted by the "Less-Than-Mere-Moments Subversion Installer", which is a one-click installer that makes configuration drop-dead simple.

Unfortunately, as you'll see in a comment on that last blog entry, I had a bug which you can avoid by not doing what I did. :-)

While Adam's comment in the aforementioned blog is right that there is a single installer already available from the main SVN site, the "mere moments" ones try to do more than just install it, but also help you configure it.

Here's yet another Windows installation assistance tutorial.

Understanding the need for server versus client components

I think it's worth noting that there are two aspects of using SVN: one is setting up the server component so that you or others can create repositories, and the other is setting up the client components so that you can merely access or edit code that is stored in such a repository.

Some of the resources above (from info to installers) may focus on and assume you're interested in the former (or both together).

If you just want to use someone's existing repository, then you don't need to install the server component. You just need a client, and the most popular seem to be either TortoiseSVN (which plugs into the Windows Explorer) or SubEclipse (which is an add in for Eclipse).

And in conclusion, if you need more insight into the general concept of revision control, see the Wikipedia entry.

Handling optional arguments to web service method calls in CFMX 7

Have you tried to invoke a web service method from CFML when it declares optional arguments, and you don't pass in those optional arguments? You get an inobvious error message. Well here's good news: there's a new solution in CFMX 7, with CFINVOKEARGUMENT's Omit="yes|no". Very nice.

Thanks to Steven Erat for pointing this out.

For those who have seen my presentation on CFML web services (at CFUNited and over the past few years in other venues), this has long been a sore spot for me. So glad to see it fixed.

Understanding (and monitoring) the CF template cache

Adobe CF team member Ashwin has posted an entry offering some useful insights into the inner workings of the CF template cache. More detail from Adobe folks is of course always welcome. Thanks, Aswin.

I've posted a comment there about how to measure and report on whether and when template cache misses occur. (Again, read his post for more on what a means.)

I would have posted it as a trackback from here, but I don't see how to do that in BlogCFC. So instead, I'm pointing you to it this way. :-)

To save you the trouble, if you just want to know how to measure it, here's what I wrote:

Thanks, Ashwin. More detail from Adobe folks is of course always welcome.

But I do think it's useful to point out also how one can measure and report on whether and when template cache misses occur. There are at least two.

First, it's reported in the command-line CFSTAT tool as CP/Sec (for cache pops per second), and reports both a current and highwater mark. (Of course, you must enable CFSTAT support in the CF Admin, and the cfstat is in the cfusion/bin or cfusionmx/bin.)

It's also reported in the Windows Performance Monitor, by way of the ColdFusion/ColdFusion MX "performance object" counter called "Cache Pops/Sec" (again, assuming that you've enabled Perfmon support in the CF Admin).

With perfmon's ability to create logs and alerts, it should be easy for someone to create a mechanism to track if you ever have a non-zero value, which would suggest increasing the template cache size.

I meant also to mention that there is an old but still useful Allaire technote offering some more insight into caching, including using CFSTAT and more.

I-Spry Part 3: Some easy mistakes (I hope you will now avoid)

As I explore Spry, one of the first demos I tried to write from scratch--rather than use code from an existing demo--was an experience that taught me a couple of lessons I now want to share with others.

(As suggested in the entry's title, this is part of a series I'm doing on Spry. Be sure to check out the other entries.)

Make sure you understand your XML

I made a mistake of trying to eyeball an XML file's layout to determine the nesting needed to create the XPath value for the XMLDataset constructor. Oops.

[If you're new to Spry, I've likely just gotten way over your head! This entry is for those already checking it Spry. Newcomers should leave right now and go check out the "bolded" resources I point to in my Spry compendium for that sort of help....Go on. I'm serious! You won't appreciate the rest otherwise! :-)]

I was looking at an RSS stream that looked like this (abbreviated):

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?><br>
   <rss version="2.0"><br>
   <channel><br>
   <title>Blogname</title><br>
   <item><br>
      <title>Blog entry 1</title><br>

So I thought that the "rss" element was outermost and the rest, including my desired "title", were all children, so I set the xpath to be rss/title. And I got no generated output from Spry. Doh! It should have been rss/channel/title.

Here's a tip: open the desired XML file with some tool that shows you the XML in a nested tree structure. Perhaps easiest, you can just open the file using IE or Firefox (as of 1.5), which will show it using a special stylesheet that renders the XML in a nested structure.

Of course, if the destination you try to open doesn't respond with pure XML, you won't even be able to open it effectively with such tools, which will tell you that you have another problem (like forgetting to turn off debugging if generating XML from CFML, or forgetting to cause the CFML page to change the mime type to text/xml. More on both of those mistakes in a later entry).

Don't use spry:region on Table tag

Interested in creating an HTML table? OK, no noise please from the CSS crowd. Some of us old-timers are slow to the party or just don't gravitate to it for quick testing.

Anyway, I mistakenly assumed that if I wanted to create a table of multiple rows that I would just add the spry:region tag to the Table tag. I figured that since I would naturally want the spry:repeat on the TR tags, I should put the enclosing spry:region on the enclosing TABLE tag. Wrong! Should have RTFM.

Ok, I did. I just missed that. It clearly says in 2 of the key introductory articles that TABLE tags are one of many on which you are not to use spry:region. More important, the excellent Dynamic Table Tutorial also clearly shows how it's to be done.

You want to wrap the table, in a DIV for instance, and put the spry:region there. If you don't, you don't get an error. You just don't get any of the content you expected to be dynamically generated (which could appear to be a blank page or portion, depending on what you're doing).

Don't mistake spry:repeatchildren for spry:repeat

Similarly, I made another mistake when I copied a line of code to do the repeat, and I used code from an example that used spry:repeatchildren, rather than spry:repeat. Doh!

The Spry Data Set and Dynamic Region Overview says it best in describing the two:

One allows you to repeat an element and all of its content for each row in a given data set (spry:repeat), and another that allows you to repeat all of the children of a given element for each row in a given data set (spry:repeatchildren)

I have lots of other tasty tidbits to share, but they're more general than these related to me trying to write code from scratch.

I-Spry Part 2:Considering Spry as a CFML developer

In this 2nd part of a series I'm starting on Spry, I've heard or seen various discussions about Spry from some CFML developers, who see the code and/or demos creating dynamic tables and ask, "couldn't I just have done that in CFML?" Well, sure, you could, but think outside the box.

(As suggested in the entry's title, this is part of a series I'm doing on Spry. Be sure to check out the other entries.)

Spry is a client-side tool, first and foremost

Spry is a client-side tool, so on one level it's supposed to appeal to non-CFML developers, who don't have CFML (or PHP, ASP.NET or J2EE) to generate their HTML dynamically.

Spry is about processing XML received

More important, though, even for we CFML developers, you need to think beyond "just creating dynamic tables": the real goal of Spry is to process XML being sent to the client.

Consider, for instance, the situation where you don't control the XML being generated. Perhaps it's coming from an RSS feed or some other xml-generating product on your server (or on some other server, that perhaps you proxy on the spry request's behalf--more on that later, or in the Spry docs).

The point is that you may not then be able to (or want to bother) creating the display in CFML, leaving it instead to Spry to handle.

Spry is about more than "generating dynamic tables"

And Spry can certainly do much more than just create tables. It can create virtually any HTML code based on the data received. Tables are just a simple example most can grasp. We're already starting to see many other and more interesting examples.

Spry is about detecting and responding to page content and source data changes

Still more important, the real value in Spry--and it's true Ajax raison d'ĂȘtre (reason for being) is to do automatic regeneration of content based on changes to the source XML data or other selections on the page, which can include asynchronous communication on the client's behalf back to the server.

That's where things like the dynamic regeneration of regions (which change when the dataset their bound to changes) and master/detail "data references" (where data in one region changes based on selections in another region)really makes things different than "static" HTML you could build "dynamically" in CFML (or other web app platforms).

As I say in my Spry compendium discussed in my previous post, do take the time to learn more from the many available resources, especially the 2 key 30+page documents from Adobe. You'll get a whole new appreciation for what Spry can do for you.

Even so, do look for more posts here as I share some of the other common tips and traps I've hit as I (and others) have explored Spry.


Beyond those comments on looking at Spry as a CFML developer (comparing and contrasting how we might do things one way or the other), there are also a few other comments on why you should be interested in Spry.

Spry is about reducing bandwidth

Those who were around when Flash came out will recall that a big part of its advantages was that it permitted redesign of pages so that rather than transmit the entire page on each "request", the Flash client just requested the data needed to fill a given area of a page.

The same is true with Spry (and Ajax in general). If you can change an interface to retrieve just the needed data (rather than the full weight of an entire HTML page), that can make a big difference in performance and cost savings (hey, someone has to pay for that bandwidth in sending HTML from a server).

Spry is about reducing Javascript complexity

Going back to the first point, all this power comes in a package of tags that dramatically reduce the complexity of the coding needed to enable all these (and more) features. It's possible to create powerful interfaces and interactions with no (or just a tiny amount of) Javascript.

Sure, as we create more advanced interfaces, we may need to understand and use more Javascript. The good news is that both built-in and community-generated demos will help show the way in the near term, and in the long term I'll bet that more work from Adobe in the Spry framework itself will help make still more powerful interfaces just as easy and low in Javascript coding.

Spry is about reducing Browser Interoperability hassles

If you've looked at doing Ajax, you may or may not have had a hassle dealing with whether your code will work on one browser or another. Sure, most Ajax frameworks also try to hide that complexity, but just know that Spry does as well, which is a good thing if you have to deal with supporting different browsers.

There is even an approach to graceful degregation, or what Adobe calls "Progressive Enhancement", discussed at the end of Adobe's great 35-page article, Spry Data Set and Dynamic Region Overview, leveraging something called Hijax methodology.

Admittedly, if the browser doesn't support Javascript at all, that's a separate challenge and a bummer. The challenge of detecting and handling when JS is disabled is not really new to Ajax at all, and I'll leave that to the reader to research or for others (or a later entry here) to elaborate on.

I-Spry Part 1: A compendium of Spry resources for CFML developers

As the first of a multi-part series I'd like to do on Spry (Adobe's Ajax framework), I've just put together a Spry Resource Compendium. As more and more CFML developers become enamored of Spry, or hear others extolling it, they may benefit from knowing about several available resources to help you get started. Some you may find more readily than others.

(As suggested in the entry's title, this is part of a series I'm doing on Spry. Be sure to check out the other entries.)

I've gathered together several of them, both to save you the work of trying to find them and more important to help you avoid missing key ones, especially ones that focus on CFML-related aspects.

Check it out, at:

http://carehart.org/spry/spry_resources.cfm

I'll try to keep it up to date with new community resources as they're offered, but of course some of the Adobe-provided compendium resources (pointed to on my page) will ultimately become the best place to find resources in the future. For now, I'm just trying to help while there are scattered resources. Drop me a note if you see something I should add.

An interesting short video on Ajax, from Manning (Ajax in Action)

Saw this offer of free short video intros to Ajax (4 minutes and 20 minutes) and thought it may interest some:

Free Screencast: What is Ajax
Get a taste of what Ajax is all about. Watch the entertaining and informative four minute overview [QT7 8MB] [MP4 12MB] or choose the more detailed demonstration with examples in our twenty-two minute screencast

It's from the folks at Manning Publications, publishers of Ajax in Action.

Solving error connecting to SQL Server from ColdFusion on Localhost

Are you getting the error, "Connection refused" or "Error establishing socket to host and port", trying to connect to a SQL Server database from ColdFusion?

The short answer is:

Open the "SQL Server Configuration Manager" in SQL Server, then "SQL Server Network Configuration", and its "Protocols For [yourserver]" option. Open it and ensure that TCP/IP is enabled as a protocol. If not, enable it, and restart SQL Server.

And if it is enabled, right-click on that TCP/IP option, choose the "IP Addresses" tab, and among the listed features, check if "ipall" (among the last in the list) has the port set to 1433 (or whatever is your SQL Server port), then restart SQL Server. More detail below. If you don't want to enable the "ipall" option, check the other entries to find the IP you're using, and ensure it's "enabled" and the "tcp port" is set to 1433.

And if it's "still not working" after you make these changes, do make sure that the problem is not that you're now getting a different error, like "Cannot open database "yourdbname" requested by the login. The login failed." :-) That just means you have a new and different problem to solve, now that this one is resolved.

The rest of this entry explains additional details, such as how to find and make that change, what specific errors you get, and how I found the information, in case any of it helps others.

[....Continue Reading....]

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